Oh, Fudge! Truth, Curses, and Religion

As always, comment to be included in the weekly drawing–details at right!

Strange what ethical dilemmas arise in the world of writing fiction. Such as: To curse, or not to curse.

Okay, some of my characters throw out a few four-letter words of the mild variety. Never the “GD” word and, until recently, never the “F” word. Then, along comes Mirren, a big guy who, well, doesn’t bother with too many social niceties. He just says what he says. He likes to curse.

As writers, we all cope with what I call Uncle Bill Syndrome (UBS). Uncle B is a retired minister and I figure he’ll have me halfway to the unpromised land if he ever figures out I’m writing paranormal anyway, so I can’t worry about a few four-letter words slipping in there. Gotta be true to my characters, yes? We all have UBS to some extent–some person, usually in our family, that we don’t want to read our sex scenes or language or whatever.

But what about personal faith and belief systems? When as writers do we self-censor to remain true to our personal beliefs, and when do we let our characters have their way? I’d imagine even writers of inspirational fiction come up against this at some point–in order for their characters to grow spiritually, they must start from a bad place.

So yes, I’ve done some self-censoring of language–not of any character’s behavior thus far (hmmm…maybe my characters aren’t being bad enough). Do you self-censor language or actions? As a reader in this age of badass heroines, are there things like language or too much violence that turn you off?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

7 thoughts on “Oh, Fudge! Truth, Curses, and Religion

  1. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one dealing with this issue. I guess I’ve come down on the PG rating for my writing with regards to language. Anything PG-13 and up is expressed as a ‘he cursed under his breath’ for example.

    Then again, I’ve read novels with sprinkled profanity and if it’s true to character, it doesn’t bother me because people talk like that and it would be difficult to be faithful to a character with squeaky clean dialogue.

    Maybe it boils down to what’s believable and what’s gratuitous for shock value.

  2. Yeah, it’s an interesting problem. I’m probably a PG-13 that veered into R for my WIP. And now I’m thinking about dialing it back to PG13 again. Feels comfy for my character but not for me.

  3. I deal with this issue too. Half the time, my characters are from other planets & have their own curse words which kinda lets me off the hook (that’s my story anyway 🙂 ) But I have a story idea forming and it’s here on this planet. I’m trying to decide what kind of strong language the good guys will use, if any. You want them to be ‘real’ people but certain kinds of characters draw lines in the dirt and dare you to cross them, lol

  4. I find I sometimes have the opposite problem. Personally, I don’t curse a lot. I use phrases like “Holy crap” and the like. One friend used to call me cheeseball (because I said cheezy things). On edits for my story coming out, the editor marked places I needed to be a little more forceful than “crap”.

  5. LOL–Riley. My main character in my first book says “holy crap” a lot. Fortunately, my editor seemed okay with that.

  6. Well, I’m a teen reader and I actually find kind of funny chracters saying bad words. I think it’s ok if the way the character talks feets his personality.